T.H.E. Show 2019: Common Wave present Nagra, Harbeth, NAD and Shunyata

“Do you have anything with female vocals?”

I kept my head straight ahead, but slid my eyes sideways to take in the young man who had just sat down to my right while I was listening in the Common Wave room at T.H.E. Show on Saturday afternoon.

He seemed normal and I could only wonder why he asked what he did – is this what people new to the hobby thought was the right thing to ask? It seemed cliché, after all anyone who’d been to an audio show knew female vocals was up there with requests for “Tin Pan Alley,” and Nils Lofgren.

The room’s host rolled with it. “I think I can find something,” he said. I expected Diana Krall or Lyn Stanley to spring forth from the Harbeth Super HL5 Plus fronting the Nagra system, but instead Me’shell NdegéOcello pulsed out and happily surprised eyebrows shot up on patrons throughout the room.

Perhaps this was a sign of a new type of room-host mentality at hi-fi shows, as more and more of them (that I took time to speak with about the female-vocalist phenomenom) seem keen to curate their show LP/CD collection or digital playlist to reflect more esoteric or lesser-known artists. I’m taking this as a major positive in my takeaway from the T.H.E. Show because I don’t think I’m alone in my weariness of hearing the same 20 albums year-in and year-out at shows across North America.

The system Common Wave had curated in room 403 consisted of the aforementioned Harbeth Super HL5 Plus in Eucalyptus ($7,895 USD) on Tontrager stands ($1,569 USD/pair), a NAD M50.2 digital server ($3,999 USD), and a slew of Nagra hardware; Classic Preamp ($17,595 USD), Classic Tube DAC ($29,000 USD), Classic PSU ($13,000 USD), Classic Amp x2 ($16,595 USD), VPS Valve Phono Stage ($8,750 USD) a Shunyata Research Hydra Triton V3 power conditioner ($9,000 USD), Typhon QR conditioning enhancement ($9,000 USD) and Sigma power cables, interconnects and speaker cables. (There was also a Pear Audio Blue turntable, but I only listed to the digital front end).

This was a system that breathed music with real ease at higher volume levels and without a trace of fatigue at either frequency extreme. Brass had beautiful extension and sheen, piano notes bloomed with real weight and scale, and wood-bodied instruments presented with lush timbre and tone without straying too far into harmonic oversaturation. Electric guitar and bass were propulsive, had slam, and excellent detail reproduction of fret and string work with palpable texture. Basically, an end-game system that retained a reasonable footprint thanks to the compact nature of the Nagra components and Harbeth speakers, but managed to sound much bigger than it looked.

Common Wave Audio

Arc Angles's picture

Rafe, I think its worth pointing out the Eames for Herman Miller side tables on which the Nagra amps look to be sitting. A rare instance of good aesthetics combined with good hifi equipment, and I wish more of this would happen.

Bill Stierhout's picture

In addition, there was an ADD-Powr Sorcer x4 AC conditioner located behind the turntable rack. Common Wave and others strongly agreed that the device worked very nicely in the system. In short, it was a magical sonic treat.

Ortofan's picture

... played a recording of Anna Netrebko?